Last updated on November 27th, 2023 at 10:17 pm

Small businesses are frequently excluded from some of the most profitable arenas due to their size.

Shop owner hanging open sign

One of the difficult parts of being a small business is that you rarely find yourself on a level playing field. Startups and small mom & pop shops often miss out on the advantages enjoyed by their larger competitors.

Take, for instance, one of my recent experiences working with a client. All Touch Power Wash & Paint is a small home improvement company that does pressure washing and painting. Since all of the work happens at their customer location, they don’t have a retail storefront; it’s an unnecessary expense. Here’s what happened when I tried to get their business listed in Siri search results…

The Power of Voice-Search

Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Echo/Alexa have gained popularity over the last few years. So it goes without saying that a business would want these voice recognition services to know about them. More often people are turning to these devices to find service providers.

Not Everyone Can Play

Unfortunately, when I tried to list All Touch Power Wash & Paint, I was politely notified that Apple doesn’t accept businesses without a retail location. They wouldn’t accept a residential address even though it’s the legal address of the company.

Thank you for your interest in Apple Maps.

We apologize, but at this time Maps Connect only accepts businesses with a retail storefront or commercial location that our users can visit during the business day and where you or your employees are physically present during business hours.

Thank you for your understanding.

Should your business ever transition to a physical location that accepts visitors, please reply to this message and let us know. In that case, it is always helpful if you attach a photo from the outside of your business (ideally, with a business sign and some of the surrounding area).

A photo of the building directory, including your business listing and the address would also suffice. (By ‘directory’, we mean the listing that is found at the entrance to an office building, which lists all of the businesses within that office building).

We apologize for any inconvenience.

Now let me explain that All Touch Power Wash & Paint isn’t some fly by night company. They’ve been in business for years. Licensed. Insured. They sport an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. They’re just a small business with no need for a retail storefront. They’re a service provider.

Smiling bearded man wearing gloves, owner of a small woodwork business, standing in his workshop
Small business owners are at tremendous disadvantage.

Small Business Disadvantages…

But you know who does have retail storefronts? Big business competitors that’s who. Apple’s policy puts small business providers at a significant disadvantage. The playing field, as usual, is tipped towards the big players.

While large businesses have the money (and possibly the need) for a retail office in a commercially-zoned space, small business providers frequently don’t. To get listed with Siri, it becomes another version of pay to play, where the big guys have all the benefits.

Hurting Consumers Too

So guess what happens if I ask Siri for a pressure washing service in Edgewood, MD? I get a company that’s 45 miles away. You know why? Because that’s the only pressure washing company in their system even though there are literally dozens of great smaller ones nearby. If I were shopping for the service, it makes Siri totally useless.

Other Options for Small Businesses

If you can’t get on Siri, there are other options. Amazon’s Echo (Alexa) will likely overtake Siri as the top voice-search in the next few years. Echo pulls business listings from Yelp so as long as you’re listed there, you’ll appear in their voice-search results. It’s a double-edged sword though, as many small businesses avoid being listed on Yelp for various reasons.

Both Google & Bing provide options to list your business directly with their search results. You’ll have to verify your address, but there isn’t a residential restriction. They just send you a postcard and you verify receipt. Amazon’s Echo does use Bing search as a fallback, so there is a small chance that even if you’re business isn’t listed in Yelp, the Echo device might still provide your business in voice-search results.

Sharif Jameel is a business owner, IT professional, runner, & musician. His professional certifications include CASP, Sec+, Net+, MCSA, & ITIL and others. He’s also the guitar player for the Baltimore-based cover bands, Liquifaction and Minority Report.

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